Let’s meet some impressive women.
Jessica Marais. Courtney Cox. Gwen Stefani. Kate Beckinsale. Jennifer Garner. Emma Stone. Halle Berry. Kate Hudson. Kaley Cuoco. Jodi Gordon. Amy Poehler. Megan Fox. Melanie Griffiths. Kourtney Kardashian. Britney Spears. Charlize Theron. Mandy Moore.
What do they have in common?
Like millions of others around the world, in 2015 they had a break-up.
It was the year, according to certain overly-dramatic celebrity-watchers, that love DIED.
When celebrities break-up, several things happen. A statement is released. It will say, “After much soul-searching, we have decided to end our relationship. The decision is mutual, we remain great friends/are committed to co-parenting our children. And we thank you for respecting our privacy at this time.”
The second thing that happens is that no-one respects their privacy at this time. The story is still buffering when the speculation starts: It was the nanny. It was a drug habit. It was Miley Cyrus. Whatever. There will be no mercy shown in the dissection of the celebrity split. Paparazzi will multiply outside gated communities, co-stars will be pinned with a scarlet letter and magazine covers with the universal symbol for heartbreak – the torn photograph – will be hurtling to printers at breakneck speed.
The next thing that happens is that people around the world get sad. If we over-identify with celebrities in many ways, we certainly over-invest in their relationships. We look to them for our relationship #goals.
When Jessica Marais and James Stewart, actors whose relationship Australia thought was our business because we’d seen them falling in love on Packed To The Rafters, announced a break-up in May, people instantly started worrying about their infant daughter, Scout. She was so cute. They all looked so great together. How could they split when their daughter was so tiny?
When Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner released their marriage-ending statement, the world lost its collective shit. These two had been together for 10 years, had 3 kids, and she, at least, had always worn the mantel of being “just like us” – a mum who talked about the struggles of juggling work and home, showed her irritation with constantly being quizzed about a ‘baby belly’ and wore mum jeans at every possible opportunity. Was THAT why she and Ben couldn’t hack it? We wondered. Should we throw out our mum jeans?
Watch Ben Affleck stumble through the moment he told the truth about marriage in his Oscar acceptance speech:
We see ourselves in celebrity relationships. And reading between the lines of those obliquely-worded statements, we project our own insecurities:
He left her for someone younger.
The baby years are so tough on relationships.
I’ve heard she’s really high maintenance.
He couldn’t cope with her success.
He couldn’t give up the partying.
She let herself go.
We are unsettled because if those people – with their beauty, and the money that we assume insulates them from the frustrations of our ‘real’ lives – if THEY can’t “make it work” who can? What hope is there for the rest of us, with our imperfect hair?
When Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield told the world it was over, young women of a certain demographic went into a depressive funk. Not those two? With their hipster credentials and their paparazzi subverting gags and their ironic appearances on SNL? Surely some things are sacred.
But if Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams taught us anything, it’s that our collective will cannot make other people stay together.
So in this, the year that Gwen Stefani came back onto the singles market – okay, for about 5 seconds – let’s all stop being surprised that the beautiful people turn out to be no better at long-term commitment than the rest of us. Let’s breathe, stop worrying about George and Amal and take a reality check.
Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s even more difficult being in a relationship when you are rich and famous and beautiful than it is when you’re just plain ordinary.
The greatest external threat to your relationship right now might be that old boyfriend who keeps popping up in your Facebook feed, or the barista you flirt with every morning while he makes your skinny latte. Just imagine if every single person you met praised you, flirted with you, and made it very clear that they wanted to get close to you.
And imagine if every argument you and your beloved ever had ended up being reported on the Internet. Imagine that every trip to the supermarket ended with you in the queue having your relationship questioned in block capitals on tabloid front covers. And imagine if every time you went to work, it meant spending three months pretending to be in love with someone who was not your partner.
A higher degree of difficulty than the average? Perhaps.
But also, let’s be reassured that pulling off a long-term relationship is something difficult. Something that should not be assumed to be effortless for anyone, whoever they are and however fabulous their lingerie drawer. Commitment, day-in-day-out, year-in, year-out, is tough stuff and not for the faint of heart, the immature or the self-obsessed.
Very few of us are consistently good at it.
And lastly, think about your last relationship break-up. If someone asked you “Why did you break up?” Could you answer it in one, concise sentence, the sort that would make a neat magazine cover-line? Unlikely. Like the reasons we stay together, the reasons relationships break down are complicated, nuanced and messy.
So maybe it wasn’t the nanny. Maybe it wasn’t Miley. Maybe it wasn’t the coke.
Maybe, in 2015, celebrities were, even more than usual, really, truly “just like us”.
Holly Wainwright spent many of her working years in celebrity magazines. You can follow her on Facebook, here.
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